Have you ever been to a wine bar or restaurant and decided to try a wine that was available by the glass; a wine you had wanted to experience without committing to a whole bottle? Maybe it was a wine someone recommended. Or, you found a wine you really like–the aroma and taste that was unexpected. Then at a subsequent next trip to your wine shop or Costco you bought the identical vintage produced by the same winery. You get it home, lit the candles, and broke out the same cheese and bread you enjoyed at that memorable tasting, only to be thoroughly disgusted that the aromas and taste of the wine was not what you remembered back at that restaurant or wine bar when that ah-ha moment hit.
About every other week I go to wine country and San Francisco to make sales calls and when possible I visit the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant in the late afternoon to get the feel for what’s new in wines. Because they have a large selection of wines by the glass I get to experiment. Recently I tasted (by the way they are not cheap) a Zinfandel with some cheeses and bread and really enjoyed the flavors of the wine. I was so impressed with the Zin, I bought a bottle of the Zin on the spot, along with the cheese and bread and went back to the hotel to continue with the wonderful tastes. Guess what? It was not to be replicated, even within a few hours. What happened?
To try and figure out what happened I contacted my go to Master of Wine friend. I explained in details of the dilemma I faced relative to my experience in the change of taste of a nice wine in a wine bar (a public venue) versus my hotel room. My question was: What happened to the wonderful experience between the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant and my hotel? It has probably happened to all of us; a nice wine experience at a place and point in time that is not replicable later in a casual home setting. So I will attempt to coalesce what I learned on the subject into some semblance of an orderly explanation.
It appears the taste and pleasant reaction to a wine is affected in 4 ways: psychological, physiological, properties of the wine itself, and environment or settings. There might be iterations of these or even a whole new category but let’s focus on these because these seem to explain why wine taste different when consumed in a public setting versus at home, even with similar/exact accoutrements (cheese, bread, and grapes, etc.). The following denotes the issues in each of the categories that can impact the taste of wine, in various venues, that is identical in vintage, varietal and winery.
- Attitude plays a critical role in how we approach most events. Back to the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant experience. I noticed some people were drinking wine while they waited for their ferry to board for destinations across the Bay; they simply were in no hurry-laid back attitude. Others went through the motions of having a perfunctory glass of wine without concentrating on anything to do with the wine itself. It is probably difficult to replicate a specific wine experience if ones attitude is not consistent, and it rarely may be.
- Stresses obviously impact attitude–stresses of the moment or the ebb and flow of residual stresses of daily work routine. Don’t forget stress impacts us in physiological ways, which impact how we process taste profiles and aromas.
- Wine seems to be a conscious drink best enjoyed with a clear focus. Are the aromas, color and taste approached with positive anticipation or casual appreciation? The mind forms the definition of the experience of that wine-even the exact wine you are trying for the second time.
- We also approach wine with a preconceived expectation. Any variation of that, for whatever reason, we set ourselves up for a disappointment in an attempt to replicate a given wine experience. Seems like nothing is repeatable.
- Relaxation is critical and there are degrees of relaxation. A relaxed state of mind opens the senses of smell and taste and regulates how wine is perceived.
- A Master Sommelier told me about an occasion when a middle age couple came into his restaurant and when seated it wasn’t long before an argument ensued. He said he was concerned because a pleasant meal will dictate how the restaurant is judge by patrons. “At that moment it was imperative that I try to defuse the situation,” he said. Yes, even sommeliers are aware that psyche can direct a person’s attitude about wine and food, even over the course of an hour. Silver Kiddush Cups